Etikett: review

Evermore – Court of the Tyrant King

Album: Court of the Tyrant King
Artist: Evermore
Label: Independent
Released:  April 28th, 2021
Genre: Power metal
Tracks: 8

1. Hero’s Journey
2. Call of the Wild
3. Rising Tide
4. Court of the Tyrant King
5. Northern Cross
6. See No Evil
7. My Last Command
8. By Death Reborn

Sometimes a band appears, seemingly out of nowhere, and slaps you in the face with a debut album of such high quality you can’t help but be in awe. Some examples would include Sonata Arctica’s Ecliptica, Lost Horizon’s Awakening the World and Timeless Miracle’s Into the Enchanted Chamber.  And now we can add another debut to the pile, namely Evermore’s Court of the Tyrant King (doh).

This young band from Karlskrona, Sweden released an EP of three songs in the autumn of 2020, so technically this isn’t the debut, but that’s nitpicking. Those songs are featured on this album, as well as four new ones + an intro. All in all it makes for seven complete songs, and not one, I repeat, not ONE dud. Yeah, that’s right. All killer, no filler. It’s as if the trio gave all they had, poured every last drop of power metal into one chalice and offered it for you to drink. The album has a playing time of about 40 minutes and doesn’t overstay its welcome by one second.

So what do we have here? Seemingly ”basic” power metal, some uptempo, some mid-tempo and topped off with the curiously addictive vocals of Johan Haraldsson. The man was the last piece of the puzzle that began with two friends (Andreas Vikland and Johan Karlsson) jamming together before starting to write original songs. Haraldsson soon joined, and the rest is history. Yeah, I know it’s a cliche expression. So sue me. There is really no other way to put it.

I mentioned Haraldsson’s vocals. The closest comparisons would be Bernhard Weiß from Axxis, or maybe Jonny Lindqvist from Nocturnal Rites. Now these are only reference points, as Haraldsson has a voice that is completely his own, strong in mid-range as well as commanding and assertive in the higher registers. Actually it’s quite impressive how he manages to sound so secure even when he seems to be aiming for the stratosphere.

So how about the songs? All killer, no filler, he said, and he meant it. But I’d like to point out three favorites, if I may (yes, he may). The opening song ”Call of the Wild” is an uptempo affair about wanting to escape the dreary life of civilization, longing for the serenity that a life in the wild might offer. At least that’s how I interpreted it. Pay attention to the lyrics: They mean something.

Next tune up would be the title track, ”Court of the Tyrant King”. It doesn’t matter how long it may take; tyrants will fall eventually. I was reminded of Stephen King’s opus The Dark Tower when I perused the lyrics, curiously. Yeah, they’re based in fantasy, but there are still ties to, and ways to relate this to, the real world. These are the kind of lyrics I most enjoy in my power metal.

Lastly, we have the track ”My Last Command”, and among its brethren of strong songs, this may be the strongest of them all. I dare you to soak in that chorus and not shake your fist at the sky. It’s that damn good. As soon as the lonely guitar intro hits your ears you know the song’s going to be a cracker. The refrain hits you straight between the eyes, and you realize why I’ve lauded this band so much. They deserve every last ounce of praise.

So there you have it. A contender for album of the year, that goes without saying. I for one can’t wait to hear what these guys might cook up for us in the future. Mandatory listening for power metallers worldwide.  If you’ve found a better way to spend forty minutes, I’m all ears.

Control the Storm – Forevermore

Album: Forevermore
Artist: Control the Storm
Label: Independent
Released:  July 25th, 2019
Genre: Power metal
Tracks: 9

1. Darkest Fantasy
2. Strike to Defend
3. New Era
4. Follow Me
5. In the Night
6. Chaotic Mind
7. Hidden Wonder
8. Curse of the Voiceless
9. Forevermore

Now this was a nice surprise! Sometimes fate works in mysterious ways. As I was searching for another band (Evermore), I came across this sextet called Control the Storm from Bristol, England. They play melodic power metal with some symphonic touches, and man, do they know their stuff!

Forevermore consists of nine tracks, all offering a veritable smorgasbord where catchy choruses and exciting songwriting are concerned. Basically every song has that catchiness that is so essential to (European) power metal. Yet the band never repeats themselves, which deserves respect. And in Firouzeh Razavi they have a very talented vocalist who adds timbre and power to the tracks. I don’t know where they found her, but they’d do well to keep her! She has a strong, assertive voice, somewhat reminiscent of Sonia Pineault from Canadian power metallers Forgotten Tales, but at the same time she has a voice that is completely her own. I don’t know if that makes sense, but there you go.

And the songs! As previously stated, they’re all pretty basic melodic power metal tunes with the occasional splash of keyboard symphonics added to the brew for good measure. Some may call them derivative of band X or band Y, but that’s not a problem with me. Not if you pen songs this catchy and memorable. That’s what it’s all about, right? I know I wrote they’re exciting in the songwriting department, and I stand by that. Writing derivative songs is not a problem as long as they’re memorable.

Opener ”Darkest Fantasy” is one of the longer songs, clocking in at approximately seven minutes. It takes its time to build up to that pretty chorus, but when it hits – WHAM – you can’t help but smile. This is how melodic metal with female vocals is supposed to sound! Follow up track ”Strike to Defend”, features a chorus that is catchier than its predecessor, if that’s possible. The song is very brief, at least compared to the previous one, and leaves you longing for more. One of my favorite tracks off the album, if not the favorite.

”Follow Me” is basically a pop song coated in a metal finish, heavy on the choral background work. It’s all these small things that add nuance and shine to songs. Layered vocals, gang vocals in the choruses, key and tempo changes etc. The band has them in spades and knows how to use them.

”In the Night” is the mandatory ballad, and Control the Storm deliver the goods. Yeah, the song could be accused of being too sappy, but who cares? A ”hold your lighter high” tune. Razavi delivers a fine performance oozing with emotions.

”Chaotic Mind” has a really cool passage at about the 3:12 mark, followed by a sweet ass guitar solo. Generally the guitarists are somewhat restrained and tasteful when it comes to adding solos. This is appreciated, because when they do come, they rule. Another notch in the belt for these guys. They know how it’s done!

Generally the album features its best songs in the first half. Still, out of nine tracks, at least seven of them know how to put a smile on this dude’s face. That’s not a bad tally. And while the closing eponymous monster of a track doesn’t manage to convince me all the way, it’s still a fine and well-crafted piece of work. Starting off with a bagpipe, the guitars don’t kick in until around 2 minutes in. From there on, it’s smooth sailing over mid-tempo ocean, resting briefly in smoking guitar solo bay and, around the halfway part, a quick stop in piano interlude peninsula before the track comes to an end after about 13 mins. Solid work.

So, to sum it up: Forevermore is a respectable effort from a young band you should keep an eye on. I predict good things for these guys in the future. Until then, check this one out!

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Album: Viribus Unitis
Artist: Dragony
Label: Napalm Records
Released:  January 15th, 2021
Genre: Power metal
Tracks: 12

1. On The Blue Danube
2. Gods of War
3. Love You to Death
4. Magic
5. Darkness Within
6. A.E.I.O.U.
7. Viribus Unitis
8. Golden Dawn
9. Made of Metal (Cyberpunk Joseph)
10. Battle Royale
11. Legends Never Die
12. Haben Sie Wien schon bei Nacht geseh’n?

I’ve been following Austria’s self-described glory metal youngsters Dragony more or less since the release of their sophomore effort Shadowplay (2015). That was a very fine effort, a smorgasbord of the best European power metal has to offer. Unfortunately, while still good, the follow-up, named Masters of the Multiverse (2018) didn’t quite live up to the grandeur set by its predecessor. Not that it is a bad album in any way, just not on the level of what had gone before.

So how does the newly released Viribus Unitis (Latin for ”With United Forces”) fare? Very well, I’m pleased to say! Thematically it deals with the last monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty, including Emperor Franz Joseph I. and his ill-fated son Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria. But it doesn’t end there. The guys in the band opted for throwing in some steampunk as well, as can be seen in the glorious cover art, featuring Nikolai Tesla as well as Houdini. But even though there’s a theme running through the album, it’s not overtly present, meaning you can enjoy the music without having to know shit about European history.

After an intro, the albums kicks off with two of the moodier tracks (relatively moodier, I might add, since we’re firmly in European melodic power metal territory here), namely ”Gods of War” (which I found a little bit lackluster in the beginning, but boy has it grown on me!), a brilliant opener with a dramatic flair and a catchy chorus, and ”Love You to Death”, which deals with the aforementioned Crown Prince of Austria, Rudolf, who committed suicide together with his lover Mary von Vetsera in 1889. Featuring yet another moody chorus, this song develops and reels you in the more you listen to it.

”Magic” is a song that sports the catchiest and most saccharine chorus on the album. Some might argue this is too flowery, but in that case, hey, call me the happy metal horticulturist. I for one love it.

The middle of the album features a real hattrick of pure European melodic metal  hits in the form of the songs ”A.E.I.O.U” (which stands for Austria Est Imperare Orbi Universo, or ”It is Austria’s destiny to rule the whole world”) and treats the listener to a guest appearance by fellow Austrians Serenity’s vocalist Georg Neuhauser as well as an anthemic chorus that may give some goosebumps; the title track ”Viribus Unitis” a short but sharp melodic metal grenade, and finally ”Golden Dawn”, a mid-tempo rocker with a truly catchy chorus (again! How do these guys manage to score hit after hit?).

The album closes with a cover of the (I guess) popular Austrian pop tune ”Haben Sie Wien schon bei Nacht geseh’n” (Have you ever seen Vienna by Night). I had to YouTube this song, and it didn’t really turn out to be a favorite … but kudos to the band for trying something unorthodox.

I won’t mention all tracks. They’re all good, but the standouts are the ones listed above (maybe not the cover though). What is fascinating – and commendable – is the flow and consistency with which these guys operate. Never do you get the feeling a song stands out in a negative way or breaks the flow of the album. All players deliver in their own way, but I have to mention vocalist Siegfried Samer who may have recorded his finest performance to date. These guys really have managed to carve a niche for themselves in a genre that’s become kind of crowded lately (which is mostly good). If you’re new to the band, this record would be the ideal place to start, and then go backwards through their discography. All of their albums have something to offer, but, as stated, the one that makes it all the way is Viribus Unitis. Hats off!

Royal Hunt – Dystopia

Album: Dystopia
Artist: Royal Hunt
Label: NorthPoint
Released: December 18th, 2020
Genre: Melodic progressive metal
Tracks: 10

1. Inception F451
2. Burn
3. The Art of Dying
4. I Used to Walk Alone
5. The Eye of Oblivion
6. Hound of the Damned
7. The Missing Page (Intermission 1)
8. Black Butterflies
9. Snake Eyes
10. Midway (Intermission 2)

Denmark’s Royal Hunt have been around since 1989 and released their first album Land of Broken Hearts in 1992. More or less firmly rooted in the progressive melodic metal camp, their early days found them a tad more accessible than on later outputs. Fast forward almost 30 years and we have their most recent offering Dystopia, released in December of 2020. While I’m a fan of albums such as 2011’s Show Me How to Live and 2013’s A Life to Die For in particular, I wasn’t too keen on their last offering 2018’s Cast in Stone. Somehow the songs didn’t gel with me. Thankfully, the band has remedied this on Dystopia.

Royal Hunt’s sound has always been keyboard heavy, which may or may not come as a surprise, since main man and (I guess) main composer André Andersen’s instrument of choice is the keyboard. But don’t expect neoclassical wankery (although there’s a little of that too), as the keyboards are used more as a way to embellish the compositions. They create rich, lush textures and a smooth “wall of sound” for the other instruments to fall back on. I believe the term most appropriate to use would be “symphonic” (hardly a surprise, eh?). Every musician in the band is more than competent with his instrument and the songs come together nicely.

I am not 100%, but I’m pretty sure the album is a concept piece. As I do not have access to the lyrics, it’s hard to tell. But the intro is called “Inception 451”, which makes you think (even if you haven’t read it) about Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451. As the first real song is called “Burn”, and with the album title in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is, indeed, about a society that has slipped and turned into a nightmare. “Burn” is an excellent opener, showcasing a memorable chorus and a rich and meaty sound.

“I Used to Walk Alone” starts of with a mellow piano, before female vocals set in. The song builds to a climactic chorus. The section around 3’00 features female operatic vocals, trading off with the male vocals, in a section that almost comes off as something Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf) might have written. This is good, by the way. An album highlight!

I realize I haven’t even mentioned the vocalist, D.C. Cooper. He’s good, with a slightly (actually it’s very present) nasal intonation and thus a voice that’s recognizable among a thousand. There’s something that can be said about originality AND longevity (he’s been in the band since 2011, and before that a spell between 1995 and 1998). It’s his voice that I’ve come to associate with Royal Hunt.

“The Eye of Oblivion” continues affairs in a most pleasant way with drama and pomp each getting their due, with a chorus full of pathos. If I haven’t mentioned it, all the songs are in mid-tempo, which suits the overall sound. Continuity is the word of the day. “Hound of the Damned” is ample proof of that. The end of the song features something burning, adding to the album’s supposed theme.

The album features two interludes, in addition to the instrumental opener, which might be one too many, but it is a petty quibble overall. “Black Butterflies” and “Snake Eyes” close out the album in an elegant fashion, featuring hypnotic riffage (the band has not forgotten they’re actually metal) and lush keyboard harmonics. “Snake Eyes” starts off with acoustic guitars and horns before turning into a smooth rocker. Somehow D.C.’s voice sounds rougher here, as if he were in a more classical 80’s rock band. A chorus that sounds hopeful (and catchy) adorns the song, which features some fretboard wizardry that also has that “dirty” sound. An excellent note to end the album on, if you don’t count the last interlude.

All in all, here we have a band that has returned to form, offering a capable, authentic and, most of all, enjoyable album. Recommended.

Skeletoon – Nemesis

Album: Nemesis
Artist: Skeletoon
Label: Scarlet Records
Released: September 25th, 2020
Genre: Melodic power metal
Tracks: 12

1. Prelude: Falling Galaxies
2. Brighter Than 1000 Suns
3. Will You Save Us All?
4. Nemesis
5. Starseeker
6. Cold the Night
7. Follow Me Home
8. Wake Up the Fire
9. Il Tramonto Delle Ere
10. Arcana Opera
11. The Nerdmetal Superheroes
12. Carry On

Some bands just don’t rest on their laurels. Case in point: Italy’s Skeletoon, who released their latest album, They Never Say Die (see my review here), a mere 18 months ago (that’s March 2019 for those of you reading this review at a later date). That album was a hearty and fun tribute to the cult flick The Goonies, coated in that sugary version of European power metal the Italians seem to be so keen on. And now it’s time for the successor, menacingly named Nemesis. There’s no menace here, however, but abounding happiness and positivity.

Skeletoon label themselves ”nerd metal”, drawing inspiration from comic books, computer games and movies, and Nemesis is apparently the first part in a three part sagas, the following two parts to be released over the coming years (oh joy!). If the quality of those forthcoming albums is anything like this album, we’re in for a treat. Actually, we’re in for a treat right now, because Nemesis blows They Never Say Die, an excellent album in its own right, right out of the water.

After a short intro, ”Brighter Than 1000 Suns” starts with a falsetto from vocalist Tomi Fooler, setting the bar for what’s to come. Double bass abounds as we’re led to a chorus that’s the epitome of happiness and positivity. A great start. Now, many power metal bands would follow the obligatory speedy opener with a mid-tempo track, but not Skeletoon. No, ”Will You Save Us All?” continues the high speed of the opener and treats us to a guest appearance by Alessandro Conti (Trick or Treat, Twilight Force) as well. The falsettos on this one are unreal, carrying that sweet ass chorus us power metallers so desire.

Only with the title track things are slowed down a bit. This is actually sort of the black sheep of the family, featuring some dirty guitars and harsh vocals in the verses, supplied by Melissa Bonny (Rage of Light). I really didn’t care for this track all too much in the beginning, but it grew on me, bringing the necessary dynamics to the album. Feels like I’m repeating myself here, but the chorus is really catchy too.

”Starseeker” brings us back into sing along land again. What a chorus! Not as fast as the two opening tracks, but equally anthemic. Now, I don’t have access to the lyrics, but from what I’ve managed to gather the whole theme of the album is heroes, and how regular people can be heroic given the right circumstances. The aforementioned track illustrates this beautifully. ”Cold the Night” is as close to a ballad as you will come, and if there ever were a time to bring out the lighters, it is now. Yet another brilliant chorus from the guys.

”Follow Me Home” is a merry speedster resembling something Freedom Call could do, without being an overt tribute. The guys of Skeletoon seem to like speed, and I’m not one to complain. Mid-tempo track ”Wake Up the Fire” is the first song I don’t really care for. I don’t know, it just didn’t gel with me. It’s got a nice guest guitar solo by Bill Hudson (NorthTale), though.

Now we’ve arrived at ”Il Tramonto Delle Ere”, undoubtedly the jewel in the crown, the cherry on top of the dessert. I could easily write a thousand words about this track alone, but at the same time, no words would do it justice. Sung entirely in Italian, this song is no ballad (which you might have thought, seeing other Italian bands – cough, Rhapsody of Fire, cough – having a penchant for penning ballads in their native language), but resides somewhere between mid and up-tempo. The title translates to ”Sunset of the Ages”, and features verses and chorus so anthemic and glorious they’ll blow your head clean off, and, yeah, it’s kinda cheesy but there is no better word for it: This song is heroic. It also features a shitload of falsetto singing (is there nothing Mr. Fooler can’t do with his voice?). Seriously, it sounds like he’s serenading life itself. You’ve just got to hear this. My favorite track of the album by a country mile.

Time for the mini epic (around 8 minutes long) ”Arcana Opera”. It starts off – yeah, you guessed it, speedily and features a chorus that gets stuck in your head like glue the first time you hear it. We’re treated to guest vocals by Giacomo Voli of the aforementioned Rhapsody of Fire, as well as guitar contributions by his band mate Roberto De Micheli. The song is very dynamic, with slower portions to complement the fast parts. Returning to the chorus, the song rounds off nicely. ”The Nerdmetal Superheroes” is a track that’s taken me a few spins to appreciate, even though I didn’t really care for it in the beginning. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Edguy’s earlier days, although being neither a parody nor a tribute. I reckon it will grow on me.

Rounding of the album is a more than passable cover of the Angra evergreen ”Carry On”, one of my favorite power metal songs ever. There is no replacing André Matos (R.I.P.) ever, but Skeletoon manage to stay faithful to the original in a very respectful way, so kudos to that!

To summarize this overly long review (yeah, I just can’t help myself when reviewing albums I really really love), what we have here is one of the best European (in both the geographical and genre sense) power metal albums released this year, and easily a contender for  album of the year. Skeletoon outdid themselves on this one, and I, for one, can’t wait to follow them wherever they go next. Nerd Metallers del mondo, unitevi!

Joachim Nordlund’s Dreams of Avalon – Beyond the Dream

Album: Beyond the Dream
Artist: Joachim Nordlund’s Dreams of Avalon
Label: Metalville Records
Released: August 28th, 2020
Genre: Melodic rock/AOR
Tracks: 11

1. Young Wild Hearts
2. Under the Gun
3. Shining Light
4. Bleed for Me
5. Run for Cover
6. Into the Night
7. On the Run
8. To Paris and Back
9. Stop
10. Black Demons
11. Somewhere Tonight

I don’t normally listen to a lot of AOR, much less review it. But as chance would have it, I stumbled upon a YouTube teaser of a band/project called Joachim Nordlund’s Dreams of Avalon, and I was very impressed indeed.

Dreams of Avalon is – yep, you guessed it – spearheaded by one Joachim Nordlund, guitarist of Swedish heavy metal band Astral Doors. Apparently Nordlund is a big fan of 80’s melodic rock / AOR, and it shows. On this, his first solo offering, I believe he plays most instruments and handles the vocals as well.

With this record you get, essentially, damn fine 80’s melodic hard rock / AOR of the highest caliber. Nordlund knows what he’s doing, and his passion shines through. It’s as if we’re whisked back to the 80’s, a carefree time when you could cruise along in your car and blast feelgood rock on your stereo (or, if we go back to the present, your mp3 player).

Basically every song on Beyond the Dream is a feelgood rocker that manages to inject a happy vibe into your day. Seriously, it’s as if you’ve been served a glass of pure sunshine or have had vitamin C injected straight into your veins. These songs are guaranteed to put a smile on your face and brighten your day.

What’s impressive is how consistent the album is. There’s nary a clunker here, and with most songs clocking in at 3-4 minutes, the tunes never overstay their welcome. Add to that the fact that Nordlund is very talented instrumentally as well as vocally. In fact, he has a very warm and likable voice. Be aware of the fact that this album is very keyboard heavy (which is so 80’s!), so if you detest synths, well, this is not for you. For everybody else though, you’re in for a good time. And the guitars are very present, treating us to the occasional slick solo, so this is definitely a rock album.

Picking out favorite songs is not easy, since they’re all of such high quality. But some of my choice cuts are opener ”Young Wild Hearts”, ”Under the Gun” (which is slightly darker, if that’s even possible), ”Shining Light”, ”Run for Cover”, ”To Paris and Back” and ”Stop”. Yeah, I’m aware that’s about half of the album, but as I said, the quality is consistently high.

I guess I’ll have to stop this now or run the risk of becoming too fanboyish. But in essence, this is a gem that any lover of retro hard rock / AOR is sure to enjoy. With autumn approaching this is a welcome complement to good old regular sunlight and vitamin C, all of which are so necessary. Easily recommended.

Halén – Idleness

Album: Idleness
Artist: Halén
Label: Self-released
Released: April 3d, 2020
Genre: Melodic metal
Tracks: 9

1. There’s No Use
2. Daydream
3. Tears
4. Empire
5. Labyrinth
6. Dreams
7. AnyMore
8. Wonders
9. Blown Away

It’s no secret I love power metal, especially the European variety with double bass drums, swirling keyboard runs and ridiculously high falsetto vocals, along with catchy choruses to boot. I’m far from alone in this, as another fine gentleman named Ola Halén (Shadows Past, ex-Insania Stockholm) has been churning out quality metal from his home studio for quite some time now. 2016 saw the release of Nackskott, his first proper solo outing (there are a couple of demos from the beginning of the century, but I feel Nackskott was a sort of fresh start for him, especially when it comes to production quality), and now we have the successor, aptly titled Idleness, a moniker that hearkens back to when he released two demos called just that under the Shadows Past banner back in 2000 and 2002 respectively.

Now, this can seem a bit confusing, but bear with me. Some of the songs on Idleness are re-recorded versions of songs already released way back when. If I’m not mistaken, there are four re-recorded songs and five new ones. Let’s break it down:

The album starts with ”There’s No Use”, which, at first, I felt lacked what should characterize an album opener. However, the song is a grower. Theatrical, choppy riffs lead into song that has a very progressive feel although not being really progressive at all. It has a dark atmosphere and needs a couple of listens to ignite. A solid opener, although I had expected more happiness. But good things come to those who wait.

The next song out is ”Daydream”, which is a moody affair with an ominous feeling you can’t really shake off. The vocals here are crystal clear and signature Halén, and with a catchy chorus to boot, things are really improving. This song was originally on Idleness pt. 2.

The Germans have a word called Geheimtipp which means, more or less, personal tip. I feel the song ”Tears” fits the bill. It’s starts off very emotionally and carries these sentiments throughout the song. It’s balladesque, but I’d hesitate to call this an all out ballad. It features a shitload of feelings and has a very hymnlike chorus. One of my favorites. You really need to hear this.

We move on to ”Empire”, which is underpinned by relentless drumming and has an emotional solo breakdown at around the 3:00 minute mark. What follows is a section that almost, nay it DOES, feel like something from a movie score. Choppy semi-progressive riffs set in, and the song ends on a high note.

”Labyrinth” also has that ominous feeling, a sense of foreboding. Some pretty high vocals from Ola drive the song forwards. You need to hear this a couple of times before it finally gels, but it’s so worth it.

”Dreams” is the first song on the album that can truly be categorized as ”happy metal”. And what a tune! Originally from Idleness pt. 1, it has all the qualities a song of this calibre needs. It starts out with a nice guitar solo over pretty fast drums and verses, which lead into an extremely catchy chorus. More soloing ensues at around 3:10. A treat for the ears, and a favorite!

”AnyMore” is the first true ballad of the album, and I must admit, first it did nothing for me. But boy is this song a grower. As you listen, acoustic guitars and Ola’s emotional vocals carry you to a part of the song (around 1:30) that is truly magical. I am reminded of the song ”Time Passes By” off Insania Stockholm’s 2007 opus Agony – Gift of Life in how the song seems to make a 180 degree shift and just morph into something glorious.

The next song up is called ”Wonders” and has an almost musical like feeling to it, like it could feature on a Broadway play. I really can’t describe it in any other way. You will need to take a listen.

Now, for the grand finale, we have the best song on the album, namely the ridiculously glorious ”Blown Away”. This song originally featured on the demo Idleness pt. 2, but has been revamped and rebooted and improved in every way. I’ve loved this tune since the first time I heard it, around 2004 or so. Double bass drums underpin a verse section with an extremely positive vibe that leads into an equally glorious chorus. The song remains speedy throughout and carries forth an atmosphere that makes you go ”yeah, things are gonna be alright after all”. The only thing I miss is the ”woah woah woah” section towards the end of the song that was on the original demo version, but it is still a truly spectacular way to end the album.

Now, I realize I haven’t said anything about the lyrics. My main gripe with many power metal bands today are the lyrics. While bands like Twilight Force, Rhapsody of Fire and Gloryhammer are enjoyable listens, I’m not really into the sword and sorcery, Dungeons & Dragons themed lyrics. I’ve always favored song lyrics that are more down to earth, that are about us humans and our struggles and hardships. Everything we do is, ultimately, pointless, but there are beacons of hope. The kind of lyrical imagery late Insania Stockholm employed. Thankfully Ola seems to share this sentiment. Nay, he understands this, on a level that is fundamentally linked to his own experiences. What he sings sounds genuine, because he’s been there. This elevates Idleness to a higher level, a level of absolute truth, if you will. I believe it’s called magic.

Skeletoon – They Never Say Die

Album: They Never Say Die
Artist: Skeletoon
Label: Scarlet Records
Released: March 8th, 2019
Genre: Melodic power metal
Tracks: 11

1. Hell-O
2. Hoist Our Colors
3. The Truffle Shuffle Army: Bizardly Bizarre
4. To Leave A Land
5. They Never Say Die
6. Last Chance
7. I Have The Key
8. The Chain Master
9. When Legends Turn Real
10. Farewell (Avantasia cover)
11. Goonies R Good Enough (Cyndi Lauper cover)


You can always count on the Italians to deliver the goods when it comes to power metal. Regardless if you prefer the bombastic and symphonic variety (Rhapsody of Fire, Ancient Bards), the more traditional, slightly progressive kind (Labyrinth, Vision Divine) or the balls to the wall straight up power metal bands (Derdian, Kaledon), there’s something for everyone.

And then there’s Skeletoon.

Standing firmly in the melodic power metal camp, these guys deliver their third album They Never Say Die, following on 2016’s The Curse of the Avenger and 2017’s Ticking Clock. They Never Say Die is a concept album, or a tribute if you will, to classic 80’s cult movie The Goonies. It’s apparent from the get go that the band are huge fans. You don’t need to have seen the movie to enjoy the album, but it certainly helps you get all the references.

Musically though, as stated, we’re in firm European melodic power metal territory. Basically every chorus is catchy as hell and made to sing along with. There’s a mix of faster and (slightly) slower tracks on the album, and it feels very balanced in that way. After a short and somewhat menacing spoken intro the band kicks into high speed antics with the opening track ”Hell-O”. Following on that song we have the slower, more mid-tempo rocker ”Hoist Our Colors”. It’s somewhat darker, which makes it an excellent counterpoint to the happy opening tune. Then comes the glorious, the joyous ”The Truffle Shuffle Army: Bizardly Bizarre” which, apart from getting the song title of the year award also delivers one of the most anthemic, happy and catchy choruses I’ve heard in a long time. Not only is this song a power metal masterpiece; it also features a guest appearance by Alessandro Conti (Trick or Treat, Twilight Force). What more could you ask for?

After ballad ”To Leave A Land” we have another glorious tune, namely the title track. The band shot a video for this one, and it was a great song to select for that endeavor. The chorus is yet again catchy as hell, and towards the end of the song the vocal lines turn really anthemic. I wish they’d extended that section of the song further, but as it stands, it’s still a cracker.

Conti isn’t the only vocalist guesting on the album. On mid-pace rocker ”Last Chance” you get to hear Michele Luppi flex his vocal chords, which he does very well. Morby from Domine sings on ”I Have The Key”, another high-speed scorcher that ups the ante even more when it comes to happy refrains. I realize I haven’t even mentioned the band’s charismatic frontman Tomi Fooler. My mistake. The falsettos he’s capable of are unreal, some of which he delivers on the aforementioned track. The album features more guest vocals. Rounding off the record are two cover songs, one being Avantasia’s ”Farewell”, a duet with Melissa Bonny and a take on Cyndi Lauper’s ”Goonies R Good Enough” with Giacomo Voli (Rhapsody of Fire).

All in all, this is a no-brainer for fans of (European) melodic power metal, and a high contender for inclusion in later year’s best lists. You probably won’t find bands as eager to cheer you up and put a smile on your face as Skeletoon. Highly recommended.


Shadows Past – Perfect Chapter

Band: Shadows Past
Album: Perfect Chapter
Label: Doolittle Records
Release date: March 29th, 2013
Genre: Heavy/power metal

Although Shadows Past from Stockholm, Sweden was officially formed in 2005, prior to that, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ola Halén (ex-INSANIA) had been working on songs in his home studio for several years. Some of those songs would later end up as Shadows Past material, most famously perhaps Cry No More, which has become a sort of band anthem. The core of the band has always consisted of Ola and guitarist Jonatan Berg, and although several members have occupied the remaining positions, the line-up has now been solid for quite some time. Rounding out the ranks are Patrik Berg (bass, Jonatan’s brother) and brothers Staffan and Olle Lindroth (keyboards and drums respectively). With two demos as a  band under the belt, the band went into the studio to record a full-length and managed, at the end of 2012, to secure a record deal with Doolittle Group. And presto! Here we are, ready to immerse ourselves in the a Perfect Chapter of this merry metal book.

First things first for those who feel the need to pigeonhole musicians: These guys play heavy/power metal with some progressive touches. This is a very vague description, however, as there is more to the compositions of these guys than that. There is a solid foundation of riffs and a tight rhythm section, so the sound never gets wussy. Melody and catchiness are the main courses in this feast though. These guys pen catchy tunes like there is no tomorrow, and it is obvious they recognize and believe in a chorus when they see it. Thus, every song has a hook; some only take longer to develop, but rest assured they will all get to you. Most of the tunes were penned by Ola, but there is also a song written exclusively by Jonatan (Ladder of Life) and the opener (and what an opener! Very wisely put first) Wherever I Go was written by Staffan. This song is the epitome of what these guys are all about: A brooding verse section followed by an anthemic chorus to tear your face off. For more of that, do check out Who Am I and Impressed, the latter of which is power metal in the old-school Helloween way, and that is a compliment. As an added bonus, there is a section within the song that features the chorus to another song (which may or may not get re-recorded at a later time) that stems from Ola’s demo days. It’s just a snippet, but it is a very cool thing to do.

With these guys, it’s the small things I admire. Some songs feature growling by Ola, but it is done very sparingly and in a tasteful way, which adds to the dynamics. The end of opener Wherever I Go features lyrics sung in Swedish, which are never repeated. Things like that. Very unpredictable and therefore original. Also, there is none of that predictability concerning song order that is so prevalent among albums by many power metal bands, i.e. you have a fast opener, a mid-tempo, another mid-tempo, a ballad, a fast song etc. Nope. These songs feature slow and fast sections, grinding and melodic parts, lamenting croons and soaring choruses all within the same song. Did I mention dynamics?

Of course I am biased. I have followed these guys for a while. I like the genre they play, I like the songs they write and I like the fact that they are passionate about what they do. The playing is top notch, the production is pristine and the concept of the cover art and lyrics feels rather fresh. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself, though. Sure, there will always be minor gripes; sections of songs I liked better in the demo versions and the likes, and songs that were left out of the album entirely. But I have to review what is there, not what isn’t, right?

To sum it up: A vibrant and fresh debut album. Bombastically beautiful at times, headbangingly heavy at times, but always energetic and always relevant. Do give these guys a chance.

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